When I was in seventh grade, I tried out for the cheerleading squad, but I didn't make it. I was heartbroken and my self-esteem plummeted. A few weeks later, one of the girls on the squad told me that I had done great at my tryouts, but that I weighed too much to be seen in a short skirt. At that time, I weighed about 125 pounds and was around 5'3".
I decided that I would lose weight, and that I would do anything it took. To encourage myself, I covered my room with pictures of people like Kate Moss and told myself that I could look like her. I started exercising every night and began to eat much healthier. Before I knew it I had lost ten pounds. Other people had noticed, and I was getting comments left and right about how great I looked. I started to think that the skinnier you were, the more people liked you. I began cutting out more and more foods. Before long, I wasn't eating anything for three days at a time, and then I would eat very little for the next couple of days. I was very tired and it was hard to function. People had stopped giving me compliments, but still I kept starving myself. This continued on until the next year.
When cheerleading tryouts came around, I did my best to make the squad, and I did! I was more excited than I had been in a very long time. I made sure that I gave 110% at every practice. We had our first game a few weeks later. Our football team played a hard game, and they beat the other team 7-0. The team decided to go out to celebrate after the game, and they invited the cheerleading squad to come with them. We went to a small pizza place near the school. Everyone ordered pizza and milk shakes, and when it was my turn to order, I did as well. I ate almost two slices of pizza and drank half my milk shake before an hour was over, but then I felt as if my stomach was going to explode. I rushed to the bathroom soon after scarfing down my "snack," and threw everything back up. It wasn't that I want to do this, but my stomach just couldn't handle it.
In the next few days, I experimented with eating different foods, and immediately threw them all back up. So I continued to eat unhealthy foods, and began to eat much more than I should, knowing that I would just take a trip to the bathroom minutes later. I even starting putting a toothbrush and toothpaste into my book bag when I went to school in the morning, just so people couldn't smell my "post-puking" breath.
Towards the end of my eighth grade year, my father informed me that I would be going to boarding school the next fall. I went through the application process and was accepted a couple of months later. In August, I packed up my room and traveled the four hours to my new school. My roommate's name was Julia*, and we got along fine. I liked my new school, but I missed my friends more than anything.
Things began to go very wrong when I was called into the school counselor's office. Her name was Mrs. Harris*, and she told me that some of the girls on my hall suspected that I suffered from bulimia. I denied the accusation immediately, but Mrs. Harris looked skeptical. She told me that if any of the girls on my hall said anything else, I would be sent home for a psychiatric evaluation immediately. I left her office in tears, not having the slightest clue as to what to do.
That night during study hall (we have study hall every school night from 7:30-9:30), Julia went to the library and I stayed in my room. I had a geometry project due the next morning, but my mind was not at all on my schoolwork. I had a million thoughts circling my head, driving me crazy. I wanted to scream and yell and throw anything I could get my hands on, but I knew that I couldn't call attention to myself. On impulse, I picked up the scissors that were lying on my bed, and I sharply ran them across my arm. As the blood ran down my arm, calmness ran through my body, but only momentarily. I repeated the process, again and again, cutting my arm every time and my heart began to beat faster. I had no thoughts of suicide running through my head; I only wanted to feel normal again. But as I looked down at my arm, the blood dripping down onto my pajamas, I felt anything but normal. I started to cry, sobbing at what my life had become.
Laura came into the room. She was our prefect, one of the two seniors that lived on every hall to help out the girls when they need it. She looked at my arm, and panic spread across her features. She sat on my bed and hugged me, not letting me go for what seemed like hours. I was sent home the next day for a psychiatric evaluation. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, as well as bulimia-nervosa and anorexia-nervosa. They let me return to school as long as I agreed to take Prozac regularly and see a psychiatrist weekly. I did as I was told, and I eventually began to feel better about myself.
It has only been about seven months since all of this happened, but I feel better than I have in a long time. I love my new school and all of my new friends. My grades are improving and my priorities are straight. Today, I can tell anybody that I honestly weigh 138 pounds without even flinching. I feel thinner now than I did when I weighed less than 100 pounds, and to me, I could never be healthier or happier than I am right now. When I look at Kate Moss now, I see how emaciated her body looks and I wonder what I was thinking wanting to be as thin as her. Nothing is worth sacrificing your health and your happiness, just to look like a walking, talking skeleton.
If I could give anyone advice from my experience, it would be to worry less about how you look and more about how you feel and about how happy you are. After all, when you get older, is it really going to matter to you how you looked when you were a teenager? Personally, I am going to be happy that I enjoyed being who I am.
*Name has been changed